Varun: Sniffing a plot?
New Delhi, March 23: The BJP today ruled out withdrawing Varun Gandhi as a candidate and said the Election Commission had overstepped its limit with its advisory not to nominate him for violating the poll code.
The party, as well as Varun himself, hinted at extraneous factors behind the unprecedented recommendation yesterday, nearly a week after the young Gandhis alleged anti-Muslim speech in Pilibhit, the heartland seat where he is set to make his electoral debut.
While BJP spokesperson Balbir Punj said some people or some family may have political designs in keeping Varun out of the electoral scene, Varun accused the commission of acting in haste under political pressure.
The comments provided more grist for rumour mills after his cousin Priyanka Vadras reaction earlier in the day at Rae Bareli, her mother Sonia Gandhis Lok Sabha constituency.
Priyanka said it was sad to see her younger cousin say things that went against what the Gandhi family stood for, though Varun claimed the allegations against him were unsubstantiated.
She also asked Varun to read the Bhagvad Gita properly to understand its meaning, alluding to his March 16 comment. Video recordings of the speech showed Varun saying if anyone lifted a hand against Hindus, then I swear on the Gita that I will cut off that hand.
Punj, however, refused to comment on Priyankas remarks and took care to underline that the BJP would not interfere in a feud between the first cousins.
But many in the BJP agreed that the typical Sangh parivar metaphors coming from a Gandhis mouth was a delightful experience for them.
In a letter to the commission today, Varun said he found the panels eagerness to exercise its recommendatory jurisdiction begins and ends with my case alone.
This itself coupled with the haste with which the EC has acted leaves one to believe that the action has been pressurised by political considerations.
Punj was more specific and reeled off names of several leaders, including JMM chief Shibu Soren, a former central minister, and railway minister Lalu Prasad.
There are candidates with criminal charges in other parties also. Sanjay Dutt of the Samajwadi Party, who was indicted by the Tada (anti-terror) court, and Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar of the Congress, who are facing charges in connection with the anti-Sikh riots, PTI quoted the BJP spokesperson as saying. Why has an exception been made only in Varuns case?
The partys legal eagle, Arun Jaitley, said the commission had no right to bar Varun from contesting. The power to advise as to who should be the partys candidate does not rest with the EC. Debarment and disqualification of candidates is strictly covered under Article 102 of the Constitution.
Punj said the BJP leadership had instructed its candidates to be cautious but asserted that Varun would not be dropped under any circumstances.
The BJP, sources said, cannot afford to discard Varun as it would not only annoy hardcore Sangh workers but could also open a can of worms.
The partys Uttar Pradesh unit had in the last state elections brought out a CD with overtly anti-Muslim content.
Many leaders expressed satisfaction at the accidental introduction of the ideological content in the partys lacklustre campaign and said Varuns candidature was only of academic interest.
The sources said the aggressive intent of Varuns response to the commission was guided by party leaders who wanted the debate to linger a little longer.